Happy Belated Birthday Max Ernst!
One hundred twenty-five years and ten days ago the artist Max Ernst was born. While it may seem strange we are choosing to remember him on this day, it is our way of honoring Ernst’s unorthodox artistic outlook. Ernst is a pioneering figure in both the Dada and Surrealist movements. The former, often referred to as “anti-art,” emerged after World War I as an anti-war, anti-bourgeois far left movement. Dadaist art pieces generally included readymade objects, a critique on the establishment of traditional art making, and participation in activities and public spectacles, including “public gatherings, demonstrations, and publication of art/literary journals.”
On the other hand, Surrealism was a movement aimed to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality.” Surrealist works “feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur,” many artists “painted unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision, created strange creatures from everyday objects and developed painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself.”
Ernst is credited with creating two new artistic techniques: frottage and grattage. The former uses pencil rubbings of objects as a source of images, while in the latter paint is scraped across a canvas to reveal the imprints of the objects placed beneath.
Though sources stating whether or not Ernst actually lived in the Village are sparse, he still has many connections to the neighborhood. Ernst was the one-time husband of heiress Peggy Guggenheim, a prolific patron of the arts. Guggenheim helped bring Ernst to New York, and was also active in advancing the careers of many influential artists, including Jackson Pollock, who lived and worked in the Village. It would be no stretch of the imagination to say Ernst also operated within these circles during his time in NYC and would have helped influence and encourage these rising stars. Finally, Ernst’s last wife Dorothea Tanning, whom he married after his divorce from Guggenheim, had her studio in Greenwich Village, which was where Ernst had first encountered her.
The Village has always been a bohemia, not just for the people who lived there but for the ones it attracts as well. Ernst’s works and subject matter are as unique and unconventional as the Village is as a neighborhood. It is for this reason that we are proud to claim Ernst as one of the Village’s own.